Titles and Covers and Blurbs, Oh My!

Apologies for the cheesy post title.

I’ve finally updated my website to includes covers, blurbs, and tentative release dates for all my series. Took a little long than I had anticipated, but I think it’s been worth the wait.

You can read about the first in my Western historical series, Summer Chaparralhere. This book starts off my Las Morenas series, which follows three sisters in turn of the century California and I anticipate releasing it in Fall 2014.

If you want to read about the rest of Las Morenasyou can find them here.

But! I’ve also put up information on my scientific historicals! I’m planning on releasing the first of these Summer 2015. You can read about the first book, Atlas of Desirehere and information on the rest of the series, called Relativity, is here.

And if you want to find a list of all the books I plan on releasing in the next two years, here you go!

 

The Indolent Homesteader: Housekeeping

OK, so this post isn’t really about housekeeping; it’s about a conversation between my husband and me. I should point out that my husband and I are a pair of smartasses and that everything said here is said with equal amounts of snark and love. (As my stepfather was fond of saying, “If I’d wanted a smartass, I’d have sent my donkey to college.)

Husband (looking over the five covers I made this weekend): Wait, have you written books yet for all these covers?

Me: Yes! I’ve actually written more than that; I’ve got nine books total. What did you think I do around here all day?

Him: Nothing.

Me: What? I keep the house, I keep everyone fed, I take care of the kids, and I write, make covers, and critique other author’s writing.

Long pause.

Me: I spend more time on the writing than on the housework.

Him: I noticed.

The point to all this is: I should have covers to put up soon! I’m working on those,  back cover copy for all my finished works, and spiffing up the website some, and I’m hoping to put all of that up by the end of this week.

(My husband, in the end, admitted he really did like the covers and he’d like to look into becoming a cover model himself one day.)

Imperfect Endings: Or, Sticking the Landing

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about endings in romance novels lately–both my own endings and some of the very satisfying ones I’ve read recently. Many romance writers will agree, writing the ending is one of the most difficult parts of the book. Which doesn’t make sense on the face of it–it’s a romance and the ending is pretty much the defining characteristic of the genre: a Happily Ever After.
But somehow getting to that HEA, making it real and satisfying and tying up most of the loose ends is just so darn difficult. Certainly as I’m writing my own endings, my main thoughts are “This is ridiculous! No one talks like this in real life. All the sugar here is making my teeth hurt.” (Strangely, I rarely think this about other people’s endings. I suppose I’m only allergic to my own brand of saccharine?)
I’ve also been thinking about my favorite kinds of endings, especially since there seem to have been a lot of these types in my reading lately: the realistic, or imperfect, ending. In these endings, the protagonists are in love, yes, but all of their problems haven’t magically disappeared by some deus ex machina. They’ll be facing the future together, but it will still be a rough one. Medical or psychiatric issues aren’t cured by love.
Some of my favorite examples of these kinds of endings are in Cecilia Grant’s Blackshear trilogy (with A Gentleman Undone being one of my absolute favorite romance endings ever), Jeannie Lin’s The Jade Temptress, and Rose Lerner’s Sweet Disorder. There are no surprise inheritances from an uncle coming to save the day or the hero coming into an unexpected title. Just two people realizing they’re in love and facing a happier, yet still uncertain, future together.
I was trying to decide why I like these endings so much (besides the fact that I’m a bit of a pessimist) and it occurred to me: these kinds of endings give me hope. There’s no surprise inheritances in our future or an unexpected dukedom. Only car payments, and a mortgage, and raising kids, and who knows what else life will throw at us. But you know what? We’ll be OK. Better than OK. Because we have love.
So here’s to the protagonists whose stories end a little messily. With some uncertainty. Without rainbows and angelic choirs and every last little problem solved.
Here’s to imperfect endings. Which are really all of our endings.

The Indolent Homesteader: Leeks

We haven’t had much indolence here recently, have we? (Well, we have, but I haven’t been writing about it.) So today we have a post on leeks!

Leeks are some of my favorite vegetables and are the essence of spring to me. They have a delicate savoriness that reminds me of the scent of spring flowers, yet still hold a hint of sharpness, the way spring nights can still be sharp with winter’s cold.

I’ve tried several times to grow leeks from seeds, but it’s been a failure every time. So this winter, I took the lazy way out and ordered some leek plants with my winter garden order.

I put them in, and promptly forgot about them. In my meager defense, we had a murderously hot winter here. Some days I could barely rise from the fainting couch, much less do any gardening. (The greens, usually my favorite part of a winter garden, never survived even a week.)

I’d see the leeks, as I was picking peas, and would think “Oh yeah, the leeks. I ought to do something about them.” And then never did. What can I say? If you were looking for “The Industrious Homesteader”, you misspelled the search terms.

A few weeks ago, I decided to pick some of these poor, neglected leeks and put them into a potato leek soup. (I used this recipe here, which is modified from Julia Child’s recipe.)

The soup itself was dead easy. I cooked up the potatoes (Yukon Golds) along with the leeks and some carrots from the garden with a lot of butter. When they’d taken on some color, I simmered in vegetable stock for about thirty minutes. After a few passes with the immersion blender, salt to taste, and some heavy cream, it was ready.

My husband, who is not at all a fan of soup, declared it the best soup he’d ever eaten. He thinks it’s because the leeks were homegrown. I think it’s because of the massive amounts of butter and cream I put in. 🙂

But now this has become my go-to-recipe for many a Sunday dinner. My kids still won’t eat it, but my husband slurps it right up. I served it last night along with a pie made from the peaches from our trees. (Yep, we already have peaches, although they’re not great, thanks to the winter we had.)

So next winter, I’m definitely putting in more leeks. And maybe this time, I’ll even try to take care of them.

A Little Something Set Aside

Growing up, my grandparents always sent a check for my birthday. It was for my college fund and I remember my father always taking the check from the card and setting it in a safe place in his office, to be deposited in my own account at the bank, along with all the other checks I’d gotten from them.

When I went off to college at eighteen, my father handed over half of that money to me. The other half, he told me, was in a mutual fund, which I would get when I turned twenty-five. My grandparents weren’t rich, so the money went to buy textbooks and not much else. (I still have the textbooks, by the way.)

I spent the next four years of college having a grand time–finding myself, discovering my passions, and meeting my true love. (Yes, I met my husband in college. Yes, it involves science.) I didn’t think much about the rest of that money, sitting there in the stock market.

My love of reading is genetic. My grandmother was a school librarian and always had stacks of books sitting around, which she never forbade us from going through. She enjoyed romance and women’s fiction and stories like that. Things that others might turn their noses up at, but she enjoyed them. She was also the keeper of the family history, carefully saving birth certificates, baptismal records, photos, and stories to pass on to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The stories I write would never have been possible without the things she saved. And that little bit that she set aside for me.

Today, I called the company that manages my mutual fund, started all those years ago, and I told them I wanted to close the account. The gentleman helping me was very nice and asked what I would be using the money for.

“I’m going to publish my books,” I told him.

“Well,” he said, “I hope I see your books someday and remember that I helped you with this today.”

I told him I hoped he did too.

And when I finally have a physical copy of one of my books in my hand, I’ll take it to my grandmother and explain how everything she set aside, everything she saved for me, the little and the big, led to this.

 

A Long Time Coming

Versions of this post have been simmering in my mind for months and now it’s finally time to write it. (Don’t worry, like any good romance, it has a happy ending.)

As you might notice if you’ve ever visited my book page, I write two different series. Both are set in the same period and place–1900s Southern California, but they’re quite different in subject.

The first series I began to write was set in a little mountain town in the San Jacintos, loosely based on the places I grew up and details “borrowed” from old family legends. The heroines are the Moreno sisters and all of these stories are at heart, Western romances. There are cowboys, marshals, ranchos–all the ingredients of a Western.

The other series is what I’ve been calling my “scientific historicals”. The setting is a university in Pasadena (no, not that one, but based on it) and at the time, neuroscience as a discipline was being born while the golden age of physics was beginning. These books are a little harder to categorize–are they Edwardian? (No, not really.) Gilded Age romance isn’t really a thing (yet) and Gilded Age implies a setting and stories that really aren’t in these books.

I had always planned to self publish those “scientific historicals” for many, many reasons, but I thought that my Westerns at least had a chance at the traditional route. And I wanted to try for it.

In the meantime, as I polished my manuscripts and query letters and waited the 12-16 weeks to hear back from publishers, I read everything I could on self publishing. I stalked the kboards, the self publishing forum on Romance Divas, I read blog post after blog post from successful self publishing authors. I even fired up the ancient PC and began to relearn Photoshop and Illustrator so I could play at making my own covers. And I liked it. I enjoyed combing through everything out there and thinking about what sounded good and what didn’t. And I waited.

As of yesterday, the wait is over. I got a very kind, very detailed, very helpful rejection. And decided that it was time to self publish all my work.

For the first half hour after the rejection, I moped some. And then, something remarkable happened. I started to feel really good. Better than I had in months. I even got…excited. And that more than anything, told me I was making the right decision.

I began to make a list of tasks I needed to complete to start my own little publishing company. Some of the tasks are rather large (like forming a corporation) and some are small, but I am so excited to have a to do list again. One that’s almost completely in my control.

(I have a deep love for to do lists. In grad school, I kept really detailed ones, spanning over months. People teased me, but I got stuff done. Also, there is no better feeling than crossing something off that list.)

There are other reasons why this is likely the best choice for me. I write fast and can put out books faster than a publisher might. I can brand all my covers the way I want to. I want to keep track of my sales numbers myself. I want to run my own sales and promotions.

Of course, it will be quite a bit of work and there’s a steep learning curve. But I can work and learn at my own pace and I’m not afraid of long hours. (In fact, the reasons I’m writing this so early is because I couldn’t sleep. Because I was thinking about cover designs.)

So, this is it. I’m self publishing. And I’m really happy about it.

Now, the important question is: When can you actually buy my books?
Hopefully, by then end of this year. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, even when the book is finished (editing, revising, editing some more, revising some more, proofreading…you get the picture).

The Western series, which is three novels and two novellas, will be released first. Because it’s closer to being done.

The “scientific historicals”, which right now are tentatively two novels (maybe three?) and two novellas, likely won’t be out until next year. As you can see by my fuzzy numbers, I’m in the middle of drafting that series.

But soon. I promise.

Are you excited? Because I certainly am.

Little House in the Chaparral

First off, I should have posted this ages ago, but here it is now. My critique partner, Emma Barry, and I have been discussing religion in romance novels over at her blog. You should head over and check it out! (And we have more coming soon.)

Now for today’s topic. When I was five, the same age as my daughter now, my aunt gave me the entire set of the Little House novels for Christmas. They were the ones with the iconic yellow covers and the illustrations by Garth Williams. I still have the entire set including the box. The inscription from my aunt is even there, although it’s a bit faded now.

(I understand that there are new editions available, without those yellow covers or the original illustrations, but we won’t speak of those abominations.)

My grandmother, when we saw her, would read my sister and I those books at bedtime. It took a while, but we slowly made our way through the entire series. Those are some of the fondest memories of my life, the three of us sitting together as my grandmother read those stories of long ago.

(I should confess here that Almanzo Wilder was one of my first literary crushes. These Happy Golden Years is really a romance novel in disguise and Almanzo is a wonderful hero. In fact, my own choice of setting was likely influenced quite a bit by the Little House books.

I should also point out, that while I love the books, they still have problems. The depictions of Native Americans are terrible and I shudder now at the minstrel show, although I had no idea what it was when I was little.)

I carefully kept those books all these years and even today, they’re still in decent shape. And last week, I started to read Little House in the Big Woods in my own little girl.

She is completely enchanted. We read the first chapter and afterwards, she begged me to keep going. “Just one more page,” she said. I gently explained that we would read more tomorrow. She made me promise before I could leave. 🙂

Every night since, we’ve read a new chapter, and she’s listened raptly. And every night, she’s made me promise to read her a new chapter the next night. I imagine those books describe an almost fantasy world to her, one where bears and panthers roam freely, one without phones, or TV, or even computers.

She’s asked a lot of questions about the trundle bed and how they can all live in one room together. I think that might be the most difficult thing for her to wrap her head around, that people could live in such small spaces. And our house isn’t even that big.

I have had to skip over some bits about the “Indians” and I’m not certain what I’ll do when we get to the more troublesome parts, but for now, I’m amazed that a book written so long ago could still be captivating children even today. And I’m grateful that I can share something I loved so much as a kid with my own little girl. And hopefully (with some rebinding perhaps) she can share them with her own kids someday.